Doctors’ New Rx for Kids: Fruits and VeggiesHeather Neal
It’s no secret that doctors are quick to hand out prescriptions to cure all kinds of ailments. Ear infection? Here’s some antibiotics. Stuffy nose? Here’s a nasal spray. Unhappy? Here are some happy pills. Now there’s a crazy new prescription making the rounds around town. It’s … wait for it … fruits and veggies.
Yes, doctors can actually prescribe fruits and vegetables for kids. It’s a true prescription for vitamins, not simply a recommendation to eat healthy foods (although we could certainly use some of those recommendations from our docs too). A pilot program in several cities is allowing doctors to write prescriptions for fresh produce so that families with overweight kids can use their HSAs to purchase fruits and veggies. The program, called FvRx (Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program) through Wholesome Wave, is led by chef Michel Nischan. It’s purpose is to connect low income families with free local produce, as well as teach them ways to prepare the vegetables and fruit. Chef Nischan is familiar with the impact a healthy diet can make due to his sons’ experiences with Type 2 diabetes. He pulled doctors into the program because he knows people trust their recommendations.
Kids who are enrolled in the Rx program earn a prescription they can trade in for health dollars to spend at local farmer’s markets. Each child earns $1 per day for each person in their family, so it’s not just the child who benefits from the free produce. That means a family of four would earn $112 worth of produce a month not too shabby.
In addition to the prescription, kids meet with a doctor and nutritionist once a week throughout the duration of the program, which lasts four to six months. They check their weight, blood pressure, and insulin levels, as well as learn how to incorporate the healthy produce into their diet. Although the program is not a quick fix solution for childhood obesity, that’s precisely one of its strengths. It’s teaching people how to improve their health with small, sustainable, realistic steps that not only benefit the program participant, but the whole family. In the two years since the program’s inception, just shy of 40% of participants have lowered their body max index and over 50% increased their fruit and vegetable consumption.
The beauty of this program is that not only does it help prevent chronic disease in kids struggling with their weight, it also provides economic benefit to farmers. It’s win-win on both sides.
There are currently 12 Wholesome Wave programs throughout the country, including cities in California, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Mexico, Texas, New York, and DC.
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